Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

Is Your Solution Delivery Strategy About to get Avalanched by Windows 10?

HoloLens took the spotlight when //build/ 2015 announced it had sold out in under an hour, but I can’t help but think at least as big a chunk of the excitement is around Windows 10 (or as we developers like to think of it, Windows Unified). As cool as HoloLens is, Windows 10 will most likely be landing in your lap long before HoloLens has images dancing in your living room. 

If you’re not already preparing for Windows 10, your solution delivery stack could be in for a shock from the client up. Microsoft is in the process of launching a re-boot of itself, and Windows 10 is the fulcrum of that effort. As usual, many of its changes are aimed at pulling developers in. If solution development has a place in your organization, this will likely impact you as well. 

“Mobile First / Cloud First” is, as always, the key phrase, and for a client OS… if it’s not for cloud devices…. give it a moment…  let that sink in…   Yes.  Windows 10 is an OS for mobile devices. Even if your device is a big heavy block of a workstation sitting near your monitor.  It will have the same mobile app store as phones and tablets, and it can be managed by the same Enterprise Mobile Device Manager (MDM).

Windows 8 was an introductory / transitional OS. With Windows 10, the transition matures.  Windows 10’s maturity is likely to make it far more palatable than Windows 8 was. (Keep in mind that Windows 8 is only a “failure” in terms of Microsoft’s other OS releases… Windows 8/8.1 has a bigger install base than some of the most “successful” of its non-Microsoft competitors. If Windows 10 becomes the hit many foresee it to be, it has potential to become the de facto standard platform to truly de-throne XP and even Windows 7.)

Windows 10 also adds a bit of a surprise, especially around browser technology.  Microsoft is tossing in to Windows 10 a whole new web browser (in addition to Internet Explorer) currently code-named Spartan. This new browser is intended to go after the consumer browser market, which IE has lost considerable ground in. I speculate that Spartan will be a breath of fresh air for consumers who feel IE’s bloat-related flaws collectively compels them to download Chrome or Firefox.

If you’re a web application developer who does more than a little HTML, on the other hand, you’re probably already groaning. You know what a pain browser compatibility is. (The browser was never intended to be a homogenous cross-everything platform, but that’s how a lot of web designers treat it, and they’ve shaped culture to expect it. Despite the best efforts of tools like jQuery and others to try homogenize, and trends like responsive to try to change the culture of presentation homogeny, web application developers get severely burned in the crossfire.  I’ve got more than a few scars to prove this, but you don’t have to look further than jQuery’s failed mechanisms for helping developers with these issues.    (First there was $.browser and $.browser.version, then $.support… then, “awe… heck… we give up, use Modernizr“.) /rant )

Spartan is a move that makes total sense, but it can’t help but add complexity to web application developers’ lives.  

In fact, in my mind, the long term net message is… there’s only one way to end browser pain… by getting out of web as a client platform. (Web services are the only part of the web worth salvaging.)

Microsoft has seen what platform diversification has done to its core OS business, and it’s not good. Developers need a consistent platform to deliver consistent solutions on, and that’s been a bigger part of Microsoft’s success over the years than even they seem to have realize.

So if web application development is becoming ever more complex in an already over complicated domain, how should one produce and deploy apps?

In a word:  native (aka mobile).

Windows 10 is a unifying platform, a “pentecostal” event to counter the “tower of babel” event of Windows platforms that have fractured into existence since the end of the .NET Compact Framework era. Where before development was requiring more and more effort to support PC, tablet, smartphone, wearable and even Xbox, Windows 10 has a unified SDK across all those platforms. For the first time ever, a .NET developer can build a single solution that runs in all those devices. There may be runtime differences between platforms that have to be ironed out, still, but not compile-time  (if(system.capability.phone) {} rather than #ifdef WINDOWS_PHONE_APP)

And think about it… what are the big reasons for web deployment?   Centralized management and centralized deployment.  Think back to MDMs and mobile app stores.

(Xamarin plays a roll in all this as well. Between Windows 10 and Xamarin, developers will be able to leverage a good chunk of their code base across all hardware, even non Microsoft platforms such as IOS and Android. This, too, is a breath of fresh air, because the cost of maintaining multiple code bases (and talent pools) is ever climbing. Xamarin will likely never be the 110% development experience that the latest .NET framework is, but neither was Silverlight for Windows Phone 7, yet one could do some fairly heavy lifting with it.)

Because Windows 10 is one platform that runs across form factors, it essentially means that any app written for Windows 10 is a mobile app. In that light, it means that Windows 10 is most likely to vault Windows into the top spot for mobile platforms by its projected install base. 

This on top of Microsoft’s recent “trickle up” theory of mobile market share growth, where Microsoft has been grabbing market share by targeting the feature phone market.  (This tactic has little effect in the US, where carrier subsidies nullify the low end to “$0”)  At some point Windows Phone will hit critical mass outside the US. Once that happens, even US developers will no longer be able to afford to ignore it.

Even if Microsoft is not contributing directly to your solution stack, Windows 10 and its biases have potential to culturally influence your solutions and solution delivery over the next decade.

Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

No Kid Hungry, Resolution To Renew My Commitment

It’s New Years Day, 2013. 

My kids made a comment, this morning, about how commercials on the TV were the same today as they were yesterday.  Without thinking about it, I flatly told them that it doesn’t really work that way; that today isn’t really much different from yesterday. 

I realized right away, even without my wife’s reproving look, that I’d blundered a bit as a dad just then.  I remember being disappointed when I was a kid by how things failed to change over night between New Years Eve & New Years Day.  I had to explain to my kids that the real difference between 2012 and 2013 was not the messages in TV commercials, but what they, themselves, resolved to change…. and the work they put into making that happen.

That, of course, got me thinking about my resolutions for 2013..  I’d tweeted a couple cute ones last night, on New Years Eve…  but there’s one that I’ve been thinking about for a while now that I’ve only hinted at otherwise.

In 2012, I saw how much deeper problems seem to be running, economically….  how even some of my extended family would consider my immediate family’s lackluster financial situation to be a blessing compared to what they’re facing. 

Media news reports that the economy is improving.  That may be true on Wall Street, but it seems hollow on Main Street.  Indeed, the so-called improvements of 2012 feel like they’ve come at the expense of folks who have been on the brink of needing help.  Clearly trickle down economics have failed.  News of improvement only means that people are slower to give… because we’re not in such financial distress, anymore…  right?  Well… worse, with fiscal cliffs and inflation factors threatening to take hold in 2013, who can give?   Sadly, trickle up poverty seems to be in full effect.  

In the meantime, one thing that didn’t work out the way I’d hoped in 2012, was the results from my charity project. 

As a product, I’m very pleased with what I was able to publish in my spare time.  It’s an honest to goodness Sudoku puzzle game for Windows Phone…  no spyware, no malware, no ads, no personal information used or transmitted…   just the kind of game I wanted to play, and something I wanted to share.   I built it using tools that I wanted to work with.  I published it globally for free, and also for the U.S. for $5 with my own personal commitment to donate all proceeds to charity.  (Folks in the U.S. have a choice…  there’s no difference between the free and the paid editions of the app… it’s just if you want to donate to charity or not.)

As a tool for charity to raise funds and/or awareness…  well…  I’m hoping to change it’s past performance.  I understand that it looks bad that I can’t market the app with official cause logos & such from the charity I’ve committed to support…  I asked for permission for that, and for legitimate reasons, I couldn’t.  My hope was that the app would earn the privilege by the contributions it generated.  It’s been tempting to shoot first and apologize later, but in a world of “no good deed goes unpunished”, I didn’t want to take risks I couldn’t back up.

After an experimental social media campaign that mostly just annoyed friends & family on Facebook, I gave up.  There was too much real work that needed my attention.  I couldn’t let an effort that was getting nowhere cause me to fail at stuff like my job.  

I’ve decided to renew my efforts with the hope that it gains some traction at some point… I’m not fighting for the product; I have nothing to prove there. 

It’s the cause.  Helping hungry kids. 

I have yet to figure out exactly what this means… I don’t want to annoy friends & family… but the cause needs hands.

Even if you have no interest in my charity project as a fundraiser, please seriously consider contributing to the cause. Even if you can’t do that…  please help spread the word. 

This is their website:
No Kid Hungry

Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

Getting at Office 365 SharePoint Lists In Windows Phone 7 Silverlight Apps

[Edit 7/8/2013:  I’ve tweaked this to note that this was for WP7.  WP8 has a whole new set of SDKs for SP integration, and it’s a different, and much easier story to use them.]

As promised from my presentation at SharePoint Saturday New Hampshire, I owe a code listing on the meaty part of the chat…  the Office 365 authentication component, especially.  It allows a Windows Phone Silverlight app to access things the lists.asmx service behind the Windows Live ID authentication.  (Frankly, the technique is the same, no matter what kind of client you’re using, but the demo I was doing was using Silverlight 4 for Windows Phone 7.

I also owe slides:

Here’s the activity rundown:

1)  The client app (“Windows Phone App”) makes a SAML SOAP request to https://login.microsoftonline.com/extSTS.srf
2)  The SAML response comes back, allowing the app to parse the SAML token.
3)  Make another call, this time to  {your Office365 team site}/_forms/default.aspx?wa=wsignin1, posting the token.
4) The response that comes back need only be checked for errors, the magic is in the cookie container.  It contains an HTTPOnly token (which the development tools do a terribly good job of hiding.)
5)  Assign your cookie container from your previous result to the ListSoapClient that you’re using to make your service calls from.
6)  Profit!

I broke up the “Activation” line on the client side to point out that the calls are Async.

In any case, I have a very rough SPAuthenticationHelper class that I also promised to post.

Here’s an example of how you can use it:

    class SPTasksList

    {
 
        SPAuthenticationHelper _authenticationHelper;
        ListsSoapClient _listsClient;
        bool isBusy = false;

        TaskItem currentUpdate = null;

        string _taskListUri = http://spsnh.sharepoint.com/TeamSite/Lists/Tasks/AllItems.aspx”;

        public SPTasksList()

        {
            _authenticationHelper = new SPAuthenticationHelper(_taskListUri);
            _listsClient = new ListsSoapClient();
            _listsClient.GetListItemsCompleted += newEventHandler<GetListItemsCompletedEventArgs>(_listsClient_GetTasksListCompleted);
            _listsClient.UpdateListItemsCompleted += newEventHandler<UpdateListItemsCompletedEventArgs>(_listsClient_UpdateListItemsCompleted);
        }
 

        public voidBeginGetTasksList()

        {
            if (!_authenticationHelper.IsAuthenticated)
            {
                _authenticationHelper.OnAuthenticated += newEventHandler<EventArgs>(_authenticationHelper_OnAuthenticated_GetTasks);
                _authenticationHelper.SigninAsync(Configuration.UserName, Configuration.Password);
            }
            else if (!isBusy)
            {
                isBusy = true;
                XElement query = XElement.Parse(“Completed”);
                string ListName = “Tasks”;
                string ViewId = “{f717e507-7c6e-4ece-abf2-8e38e0204e45}”;
                _listsClient.GetListItemsAsync(ListName, ViewId, query, null, null, null, null);
            }
        }

        void_authenticationHelper_OnAuthenticated_UpdateTask(objectsender, EventArgs e)

        {
            _listsClient.CookieContainer = _authenticationHelper.Cookies;
            BeginUpdateTask(currentUpdate);
        }

……
} 

I ported this from a few other examples I found online to Silverlight for Windows Phone.  I apologize,  I haven’t had time to polish it, and I’m having a hard time with the embedded SOAP litteral, but here’s the SPAuthenticationHelper class:





using System;

using System.Net;
using System.IO;
using System.Linq;
using System.Xml;
using System.Xml.Linq;
 
namespace SPSNH_SPConnector.Implementation
{
    public class SPAuthenticationHelper
    {
        public CookieContainerCookies { get; set; }
        public boolIsAuthenticated { get; privateset; }
        public event EventHandler<EventArgs> OnAuthenticated;
 
        private bool_isAuthenticationInProgress = false;
 
        const string_authUrl=https://login.microsoftonline.com/extSTS.srf&#8221;;
        const string _login=“/_forms/default.aspx?wa=wsignin1.0”;
       
        //namespaces in the SAML response
        const string _nsS = http://www.w3.org/2003/05/soap-envelope&#8221;;
        const string _nswst = http://schemas.xmlsoap.org/ws/2005/02/trust&#8221;;
        const string _nswsse = http://docs.oasis-open.org/wss/2004/01/oasis-200401-wss-wssecurity-secext-1.0.xsd&#8221;;
        const string _nswsu = http://docs.oasis-open.org/wss/2004/01/oasis-200401-wss-wssecurity-utility-1.0.xsd&#8221;;
        const string _nswsa = http://www.w3.org/2005/08/addressing&#8221;;
        const string _nssaml = “urn:oasis:names:tc:SAML:1.0:assertion”;
        const string _nswsp = http://schemas.xmlsoap.org/ws/2004/09/policy&#8221;;
        const string _nspsf = http://schemas.microsoft.com/Passport/SoapServices/SOAPFault&#8221;;
        const string _samlXml =@” http://schemas.xmlsoap.org/ws/2005/02/trust/RST/Issue http://www.w3.org/2005/08/addressing/anonymous https://login.microsoftonline.com/extSTS.srf {0} {1} {2} http://schemas.xmlsoap.org/ws/2005/05/identity/NoProofKey http://schemas.xmlsoap.org/ws/2005/02/trust/Issue urn:oasis:names:tc:SAML:1.0:assertion “;

        Uri _uri;  
        HttpWebRequest _getTokenRequest = HttpWebRequest.CreateHttp(_authUrl);
        HttpWebRequest _submitTokenRequest = null;
        string _token;
 
        public SPAuthenticationHelper(string uri)
        {
            _uri = new Uri(uri);
            Cookies = new CookieContainer();
        }
 
        public voidSigninAsync(string userName, string password)
        {
            if (!_isAuthenticationInProgress)
            {
                _isAuthenticationInProgress = true;
                getTokenAsync(userName, password);
            }
        }
 
       
        private  void getTokenAsync(stringuserName, string password)
        {
            string tokenRequestXml = string.Format(_samlXml, userName, password, _uri.Host);
 
            _getTokenRequest.Method = “POST”;
            _getTokenRequest.BeginGetRequestStream(newAsyncCallback(Get_GetToken_RequestStreamCallback), tokenRequestXml);
        }
 
        private voidGet_GetToken_RequestStreamCallback(IAsyncResultresult)
        {
            string tokenRequestXml = (string)result.AsyncState;
            var reqstream = _getTokenRequest.EndGetRequestStream(result);
            using (StreamWriterw = new StreamWriter(reqstream))
            {
                w.Write(tokenRequestXml);
                w.Flush();
            }
            _getTokenRequest.BeginGetResponse(new AsyncCallback(Get_GetToken_ResponseStreamCallback), null);
        }
 
 
 
        private voidGet_GetToken_ResponseStreamCallback(IAsyncResultresult)
        {
            _token = null;
 
            varresponse = _getTokenRequest.EndGetResponse(result);
 
            var xDoc = XDocument.Load(response.GetResponseStream());
 
            var body=xDoc.Descendants(XName.Get(“Body”, _nsS)).FirstOrDefault();
            if (body != null)
            {
                var fault = body.Descendants(XName.Get(“Fault”, _nsS)).FirstOrDefault();
                if (fault != null)
                {
                    var error=fault.Descendants(XName.Get(“text”, _nspsf)).FirstOrDefault();
                    if (error != null)
                        throw new Exception(error.Value);
                }
                else
                {
                    var token = body.Descendants(XName.Get(“BinarySecurityToken”, _nswsse)).FirstOrDefault();
                    if (token != null)
                    {
                        _token = token.Value;
                        SubmitTokenAsync();
                    }
                }
            }           
        }
 

        private  void SubmitTokenAsync()
        {
 
            UriBuilder bldr = newUriBuilder(_uri.Scheme, _uri.Host, _uri.Port);
            _submitTokenRequest = HttpWebRequest.CreateHttp(bldr.Uri + _login);
            _submitTokenRequest.CookieContainer = Cookies;
            _submitTokenRequest.Method = “POST”;
            _submitTokenRequest.BeginGetRequestStream(newAsyncCallback(Get_SubmitToken_RequestStreamCallback), null);
        }
 
        private voidGet_SubmitToken_RequestStreamCallback(IAsyncResultresult)
        {
            var requestStream = _submitTokenRequest.EndGetRequestStream(result);
            using (StreamWriterw = new StreamWriter(requestStream))
            {
                w.Write(_token);
                w.Flush();
            }
            _submitTokenRequest.BeginGetResponse(newAsyncCallback(Get_SubmitToken_ResponseCallback), null);
        }
 
        private voidGet_SubmitToken_ResponseCallback(IAsyncResultresult)
        {
            UriBuilder bldr = newUriBuilder(_uri.Scheme, _uri.Host, _uri.Port);
 
            varresponse = _submitTokenRequest.EndGetResponse(result);
            string responseString = (newStreamReader(response.GetResponseStream())).ReadToEnd();
           
            bldr.Path = null;
            Cookies = _submitTokenRequest.CookieContainer;//.GetCookies(bldr.Uri);
            _isAuthenticationInProgress = false;
            IsAuthenticated = true;
            if (OnAuthenticated != null)
            {
                EventArgs args = new EventArgs();
                OnAuthenticated(this, args);
            }
        }
    }
}
 
 

Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

Microsoft Announces Windows Phone Dev Center

I’ve learned a few things in the past months in working with the SharePoint community.  Namely, if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.  In today’s age of social media meeting business networking, this is more important than ever.  

I hope, however, that Microsoft’s Windows Phone Dev Team forgives me for the tough love I dished out on them back in May.  (I won’t even link to that post.)  

I love developing apps in Silverlight & C# for my phone, and I’m so happy to see an update that directly impacts us App Developers…  

Here’s the Windows Phone Developers Blog:
http://windowsteamblog.com/windows_phone/b/wpdev/archive/2012/08/07/meet-the-windows-phone-dev-center.aspx

Here’s the great looking new app publisher’s experience for Windows Phone Developers:
https://dev.windowsphone.com/

I haven’t fully explored it yet, but at first glance, it looks much more like the excellent developer’s & publishers’ experience I’ve come to take for granted from Microsoft… I can’t wait to explore it more and see how it all came together.

Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

GSSPUG Hub (Free App) for Windows Phone Now Available

My “artisan portfolio” of Windows Phone apps just DOUBLED in size!  Yes, I’ve now successfully published my second Windows Phone app.  🙂

The Granite State SharePoint Users Group Hub is a somewhat minimal app, but if you’re a member of the group, it’s got some useful features.   My favorites are being able to get info about the next meeting, (both in the app, and as a live tile) and being able to RSVP through EventBright.

The direct link to find it in the Marketplace on your Windows Phone is this.

Regarding the name…  GSSPUG?  Ya, I know… it’s not quite as intuitive as NHSPUG…    

If you’re from New Hampshire, you know you search for “Granite State” any time you’re looking for something local…  and if you don’t know that, it probably is just as well you don’t find it.  😉

One other nice thing is that the content is largely driven from the group’s web site, which, of course, is a SharePoint site.   The app does require a network connection, but it can be updated without having to go through the week-long process of publishing an update. 

Like Jimmy Sudoku, the app uses your phone’s system wide theme colors.

Essentially this is what ends up in the Hub app.

And it appears like so:

Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

Windows Phone Live Tiles… What’s happening right now?

The first thing you see when you see a Windows Phone is the start display.  In fact, it’s so distinct, that it becomes the most identifiable feature of a Windows Phone at a distance.  Typically, the start display is populated with a number of application icons…  only on Windows Phone (and Metro) they’re all square or rectangles and are called Tiles.  

On second glance, you start to notice that many of these tiles have some form of light animation to them, typically communicating basic information.  The Tiles that open messaging apps indicate the number of new messages, for example.

When I first started playing with my Windows Phone, the live tiles seemed like a nifty gimmick… important for messaging features, but not really useful for anything else.

As I’ve dug in on app development for Windows Phone, I’ve come to see the Live Tiles as a really under-leveraged feature, communicating with users on a level that previously couldn’t be achieved.  They’re terribly simple, but terribly engaging.  I now see that they are the addictive component of Facebook’s classic “What’s on your mind?” status updates… statuses provided by the apps on your phone. 

In some cases, this literally translates to status update from your friends, since Tiles can be put on your start display for any contact.  (Since contacts are linked via the People Hub to their Facebook, Twitter, and Linked In…  voila!  one tile gets status updates for that individual covering all the bases.)

What’s really cool is that, like I said before, getting status updates is not limited to contacts.  I’ve got apps that have live tiles that… display current weather conditions including radar maps.  …show stock quotes & notifications.  …display photos from various sources.  … even shows your XBox avatar fully animated.

I’m in the process of adding a new feature to my hobby project, Jimmy Sudoku, to make use of live tiles to show the progress of the “current” puzzle.  

A new hobby project I’m working on has to do with the Granite State (NH) SharePoint Users Group that I am a principal organizer of.   This app will eventually be a hub for group information, offering member users easy access to schedules, speaker info, weather delay notifications, registration info, and even Power Point presentation slides.   Interestingly enough, a key feature will be to provide a live tile which will poll a webservice to get updates… the live tile will then let the user know they have important information to review, thus engaging the user.  (Sure, push technology’s available, but in this case, polling will be sufficient.)

The uses for this being able to re-engage a user after they’ve “quit” the application itself are significant.   I can easily imagine a time when the marketing significance of them makes building Windows Phone apps far more attractive to companies than iPhone or Droid apps.  Even if companies aren’t trying to hock a specific product…  imagine corporate “investor information” apps, for example, that provide easily accessible information about a company… but most importantly, providing “status updates” to investors to re-engage interest.

I’ll admit, at some level, this reminds me of electronic kids toys that attempt to re-engage kids in play after the kid has put it down and walked away by flashing a few lights & making a little noise.  There’s reasons those kids toys do that, though, and anyone paying attention with a mind for marketing will get what they are.

This is another Non-App for Windows Phone… one of the many cool features built into the device in an accessible, but non-cluttering way… and another reason I keep seeing Windows Phone as the IBM Compatible of smart phones.

So the above is why you want Live Tiles…   Here’s a code snippet that illustrates how:

using Microsoft.Phone.Shell;

… 

public static void UpdateAppTile(JimmySudoku4.Puzzles.SudokuState state)

{
    ShellTile appTile = ShellTile.ActiveTiles.First();

    if (appTile != null)
    {
        StandardTileData data;
        if (state.GetElapsedTime().Ticks == 0)
        {
            data = new StandardTileData()
                {
                    BackContent = “Game Complete”,
                    BackTitle = “Try again!”, Count = 0
                };
        }
        else
        {
            int completeCellCount =
                state.MasterList.Where(c => c.Value != 0).Count();
            int percent = (int)((decimal)((decimal)completeCellCount / (decimal)81)
                * (decimal)100);
            if (percent < 100)
            {

                data = new StandardTileData()
                    {
                      BackContent =
                            string.Format(“Elapsed Time:\n{0:hh:mm:ss}”,
                                 state.GetElapsedTime()),
                        BackTitle = string.Format(“{0}% complete”, percent)
                    };
            }
            else
            {
                data = new StandardTileData()
                    {
                        BackContent = string.Format(“Completion Time:\n{0:hh:mm:ss}”,
                            state.GetElapsedTime()),
                        BackTitle = “You Won!”
                    };
            }
        }

        appTile.Update(data);
    }
}

Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

My Favorite "Non-Apps" for Windows Phone 7

There’s a lot of cool stuff built in the current Windows Phone 7… stuff that competing phones need to download an App for.  These are features of the Windows Phone operating system that are built-in.  You could call it “An App for That”, but it’s not something a Windows Phone user needs to spend time to find, download, and install.   (There’s something to be said that you get your choice from dozens of them on iOS and Droid.  I wonder how much time iPhone users spend figuring out which ones work well for them and which ones don’t…?)  

People Hub is one of the best.  It’s so well integrated and natural that it’s easy to take for granted. (the fact that all your contacts from all your social media hubs and work contact lists are integrated by default, and you can group and manage communications among groups very easily… hard imagine not having that.)

Some of my favorite lesser known “Non-Apps” in Windows Phone involve the built in search functionality.  Hitting the handy magnifying glass that’s an identifying feature of every Windows Phone out there brings you to Bing Search.  While I’ve been an admittedly slow adopter for Bing, the features in Windows Phone’s Bing Search are awesome.  

Visual Search just rocks.  Tapping the icon that looks like an eye from the search page fires up the device’s camera.  Simply point the camera in the direction of nearly *any* common, standardized barcode or QR code.   As soon as the phone “sees” the code, it will highlight it and immediately try to identify it. 

At Trader Joes, and want to know a bit more about their uncrystalized candied ginger?  Scan the UPC code.  It will remind you that the small package contains about 8 servings, [so don’t eat it all at once!]  🙂   Chances are just about anything you find at any store will have a barcode, QR code, or even an MS Tag associated with it.  

My favorite use for Tags, by the way, is printing Tags associated with your virtual Card on the back of classic Business Cards…  scan the Tag, and all the info on the card can be imported into your phone!  I never give out my card unless it’s Tagged. 

Tags can get really fancy, by the way… sometimes they’re almost hidden, and, especially out of context, it might take a moment for a human to recognize (but your phone will pick it out instantly!).  There’s a very creative cottage industry popping up around the art of Tagging things.  Exemplified by this Angry Birds Tag by Extreme2D.com. (Facebook) (and visit their site for an array of other very creative Tags!)

Visual Search does a whole slew of other awesome stuff too..  visual text identification (and TRANSLATION to foreign languages!)

Another favorite Windows Phone “Non-App” is Audio Search.  Let’s just say this is how I discover most of the music I download.  Ever out & about and hear a song that you are really taken by, but have no idea who it is?   Simply hit the music note icon in search, and let the phone listen for a moment. 

I heard the 2011 remaster of Pink Floyd’s The Wall, doing cuts I’d never heard before on someone’s radio not too long ago.  It was such a fresh cut that I didn’t even believe it was actually Pink Floyd’s recording of their own song.   Upon hitting it on Audio Search, I found the tune, and the album, and immediately downloaded the whole thing!   Awesome stuff!

So this doesn’t even really scratch the surface of the stuff that you don’t need an App for with Windows Phone.   It’s like that old spaghetti sauce commercial…  “It’s in there!”

What are your favorite built in (#NonApp) Windows Phone features?

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